It is the selflessness that stands out most to those who were around for the Brewers' magical postseason run in 2008, when CC Sabathia essentially loaded the team's hopes and dreams onto his broad shoulders and made the city of Milwaukee believe in what was happening here.
Sabathia's time in Milwaukee may have been brief, but his mark still can be felt and seen to this day. With free agency approaching, Sabathia risked it all, insisting that he would make his last three starts of the season on three days' rest to help the Brewers lock up the National League Wild Card.
If you ask Ryan Braun, what Sabathia did after arriving in Milwaukee in that July 7, 2008 trade from the Indians was, "no doubt," the best half-season in franchise history.
"Especially doing it on short rest so many times," Braun said. "Considering where he was at in service time, how close he was in free agency, how little time he'd spent here, for him to assume that risk and do what he did for us was incredibly special. Incredibly rare. Something I'm sure none of the fans here will ever forget. As players, it's something we'll never forget, either."
The big lefty went 11-2 with a dominant 1.65 ERA in 17 starts, striking out 128 batters in 130 2/3 innings while leading Milwaukee to its first postseason appearance since 1982. In just a half season, Sabathia led the NL with seven complete games and three shutouts.
"I felt like every time I went out when I was here, I was going to win the game," Sabathia said.
In those last three starts, Sabathia won twice while rattling off an 0.83 ERA in those outings. Saturday's start will be his first at Miller Park since Sept. 28, 2008, when he pitched the Brewers to a 3-1 victory over the Cubs, boosted by Braun's two-run homer in the eighth inning. The Mets lost later that day to the Marlins, clinching the Wild Card for Milwaukee.
"That's one of the games I still remember that sticks out the most," Sabathia said. "I just remember Braunie hitting the home run. Him coming up to me and saying, 'If I get you a run right here, is the game over?'
"I was like, 'Yeah, the game's over,' and he went up and hit a homer. That was crazy. I think we felt like we were going to win at that point, no matter what the Mets did. If we were going to have to go play them the next day in New York, I think we would have won that game too."
Sabathia turned in his Brewers colors after the Phillies defeated Milwaukee in a four-game NL Division Series on their way to a World Series title. The Brewers made Sabathia a solid offer to stay, reported to be five years and $100 million. He chose the Yankees' seven-year, $161 million offer, calling it "the best decision for me and my family."
There are few hard feelings in Milwaukee, where Sabathia is expected receive loud cheers on Saturday, taking the mound against right-hander Kyle Lohse.
"Everything happened so quick," Sabathia said. "After that offseason, I ended up signing [with the Yankees] and went to the World Series. I felt like those two years ran together for me, but it was a fun time. I was healthy and felt good and was excited about being here and a chance to win. That kind of just translated over to the field."
Yankees: Solarte continuing to impress
Yangervis Solarte was a non-roster invitee this spring, a 26-year-old infielder who had been cut loose by both the Twins and Rangers organizations. The switch-hitter kept to himself at the back of the clubhouse, quietly going about his business while wearing uniform No. 89 and believing that he could fight the long odds to make a big league roster.
Solarte made the team with a torrid spring and has shown the ability to keep making the adjustments to stay in the Majors. He slugged a three-run homer in New York's 5-3 victory over the Brewers on Friday and leads the Yankees with 18 RBIs. Manager Joe Girardi said that Solarte has proven that he belongs on a big league diamond.
"You look at what he did in Spring Training, we thought that his at-bats were very good," Girardi said. "He made the team as a non-roster player because we really liked what he was doing offensively. And defensively we knew we could move him around and feel good about him. They've just carried on; the at-bats have just continued since Spring Training, and they've been very good. I'm not surprised because I think mechanically he's pretty sound."
Brewers: Roenicke has praise for Jeter
In Spring Training when Brewers officials began considering Carlos Gomez to bat leadoff, manager Ron Roenicke had Derek Jeter in mind. Roenicke spent 11 of Jeter's prime seasons on the Angels' coaching staff.
"When he was leading off for them, that first pitch we told pitcher, 'Don't throw strikes,' because it was always a base hit," Roenicke said. "I did think of him, though it's a little different. [Jeter] is more disciplined than Gomez is. If it was out of the zone, [Jeter] wouldn't swing at it. The power is a little different [in favor of Gomez]."
Like many in a Brewers uniform, Roenicke is a fan of the way Jeter has played the game.
"Hopefully he finishes with a good year, because this guy can really play," Roenicke said. "He gets it. He's got great baseball instincts. He got a ton of hits against us for a long time."
• Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley had an MRI on his stiff lower back and was unavailable to pitch on Friday. Kelley said that the tests revealed no disk issues and he is hoping to be ready to pitch if needed on Saturday.
• Jeter is the all-time hits leader in Interleague Play with 347. He is 32-for-99 (.323) lifetime against the Brewers, including 22-for-64 in 17 games at Miller Park.
• Brewers starting pitchers have produced a Major League leading 27 quality starts in 36 games this season.